Meet The BRILLIANT Supporting Cast of Madras Cafe
Shoojit Sircar's Madras Cafe has been receiving rave reviews from all quarters, thanks to its deft handling of the subject of the Sri Lankan civil war that led to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991.
But the powerful performances of its cast was also a big reason for its success and acclaim.
Besides John Abraham, the film stars an ensemble cast, many of whom have never acted in films before.
We spoke to four actors, who play small yet pivotal roles in the film. None of them have acted in a film before.
Prakash Belawadi, Vikram Singh’s senior Bala in Jaffna in the film
Bangalore-based theatre veteran and journalist Prakash Belawadi’s Bala is Vikram Singh’s (John Abraham) self assured and perennially drunk senior in Jaffna, who comes across as a fiercely territorial intelligence officer at first.
Belawadi has directed the National Award winning 2002 film Stumble and acted in/directed plays in Kannada and English.
He recounts his Madras Cafe experience here:
Arjun Chakradhar, Shoojit Sircar’s assistant director, sent me the Madras Cafe script.
He asked me to shoot the audition myself and send it to them. I was intrigued by the film’s script.
The character description in it was particularly striking, it was so well done.
Shoojit is a highly accomplished and demanding director. For someone like me, who hasn’t acted much, it’s sometimes difficult to meet his expectations.
Shoojit is really good as a director because he knows the craft, he knows the technology he’s working with.
He can act and explain what he wants from you, he can wield the camera, he knows editing. He’s the filmmaker India has been waiting for.
Madras Cafe is a very unusual film, and I'm very impressed with it. Few people can make a mainstream film without songs and with a climax where the hero isn’t walking into the sunset with his heroine.
I think it is a huge breakthrough for Hindi films that Madras Cafe was distributed like any other mainstream film.
Image: Prakash Belawadi in Madras Cafe
Bengali actor, entrepreneur and cinephile Arijit Dutta plays LTF commander Mallaya, who is also the second in command of Anna Bhaskaran’s rebel army.
Although present in only a few scenes in the film, Dutta makes a lasting impression with his restraint portrayal of a guerilla soldier.
He recounts his Madras Cafe experience here:
I met Shoojit Sircar at a party a while ago. He just tapped me on my shoulder and asked if I’d like to do a part in his new film.
He asked me to send pictures of me in fatigues and Gandhi chashma (over spectacles) and selected me after that.
I was told about the role after that. I had no second thoughts when Shoojit offered me the part. After all, he’s such an acclaimed name in the mainstream.
I enjoyed watching the film when we were done shooting although a few of my scenes were cut to maintain the film’s swift pace.
I was a little disappointed but when I saw the end product, I realised that Shoojit was right in cutting them.
As an exhibitor myself, I can tell that if a film rambles on, the audience starts shifting in their seats.
Madras Cafe is so tightly edited, it doesn’t give your mind an opportunity to meander.
Shoojit Sircar is an extremely encouraging, relaxed director to work with and I knew John from before I started shooting for Madras Café.
His 2007 film (Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal) released in one of my Kolkata theatres called Priya (one of the few theatres in the city credited with hosting some high profile Bengali film premieres).
Image: Arijit Dutta in Madras Cafe
Twenty-one year old Tinu Menachary is an aspiring actress and a graduate from St Xaviers College, Mumbai. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Tinu currently lives with her parents in Cochin, where they shifted base a while ago.
The youngster, who plays a small yet significant part in the film, recounts her Madras Cafe experience here:
I was selected after a series of auditions. I’ll be honest with you, I have been trying for lead roles but they are really hard to come by.
So when I was finally offered the role in Madras Cafe I took it up when I heard it was being directed by Shoojit Sircar, even though I was aware that it’d be a huge risk I’m taking.
Playing the character in the film was slightly difficult because I’m not a serious person in real life. Shoojit sir patiently guided me through all of it. He’s very particular about what he wants from his characters.
He’s awesome as a director and really comfortable to work with; he doesn’t stress you out at all.
I was really excited to meet John Abraham because I think he’s very sexy but I also felt intimidated in his presence.
I was surprised to see how humble he is as a person and so easy to talk to.
I wish I had walked up to him and talked more. I couldn’t talk much when I had a chance because I was so intimidated.
We organised a small premiere of the film in Cochin and some of the people who’d turned up to watch it, recognised me and remarked what a well-made film it is.
Image: Tinu Menachary in Madras Cafe
Journalist and one of television's most famous faces, Dibang made his Bollywood debut as a former RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) officer who provides Vikram Singh with some information.
Dibang recounts his Madras Cafe experience here:
Madras Cafe tells a story that has never been told before. So in that sense, it opens up a path for films that should be made.
Madras Cafe's story is a worthy subject with powerful performances and handled in a very sensitive way.
It's a very powerful film, but there's no drama. It doesn't have a RAW agent who fights off 30 Tamilians at once.
The RAW agent in this film is like anybody else -- in real life it could be one of us.
I think Madras Cafe is going to be a cult film; it'll set a new benchmark.
Shoojit is known for staying off the beaten track of formula films. Madras Cafe talks about events that changed the course of our history.
It's based on Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. It is a very bold subject and required a director who would keep his eyes open and observe everything. Shoojit is a director who does not blink.
As a filmmaker, his grasp of the medium is tremendous.
Image: Dibang and John Abraham in Madras Cafe